On 6 and 7 of December, 2023, CELBET 3 Steering Committee was held under the leadership of the National Revenue Administration of the Republic of Poland. The meeting was attended by the DGs or their representatives of customs administrations of 12 EU Member States: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia but also for the first time representatives of French Customs.
At the Steering Committee meeting opening speech, Head of National Revenue Administration, Mr Bartosz Zbaraszczuk, underline:
“We’re here not just to discuss border security and customs matters but to fortify the safety of our borders, ensuring the protection of our citizens against illicit activities like drug trafficking”.
The Commission opened the session by presenting state of play of the EU Customs Union Reform Package (officially announced on 17 May this year).
Challenges and direction
Mr Matthias Petschke, Director DG TAXUD, paid attention to the enlarging structure of CELBET, underlining the French Customs presence.
Mr Petschke has also remainded the most crucial challenges and issues that Customs is heading to: e-commerce, key-neighbours cooperation, responsibility of building Data HUB and creating customs entity.
“We are going the right direction, we see more and more ambition that MS can be unite. It is important that MS are dealing with the issues in a constructive spirit. Useful cooperation can only help and creation of customs entity will help us to protect our borders”- said Mr Matthias Petschke.
Representatives of European Commission, highlighted last discussion in the European Parliament, which underlined customs significant role in a security system as a part of critical infrastructure.
“ We see that Reform proposal is not only act as one, but it is attract major attention. (…) Customs is very much in line with Brexit, Covid, sanctions and now another war: war against drug trafficking” – explained Mr Petschke.
One of the first step in mobilization of Customs regarding the drug trafficking, is providing reliable equipment.
Mr Mario Demirovic, Director General of Customs Administration of Croatia, shared his opinion on CELBET Equipment testing activity, that was organized in Croatia:
“ Testing of scanning equipment is a perfect example what Member States can benefit from CELBET, also according to the CCEI assumptions”.
Traditionally, CELBET team leaders have presented a summary of 6 months achievements:
- Results of Diagnostic Studies and recommendations
- Overview of the risk management in passenger and vehicle traffic
- Joint CELBET Actions for Mobile Units
- Handheld backscatter field testing results and AI workshops
- Efficient trainings and new Integrity training program
- Cooperation with third countries, Western Balkans and organizing Missions
- PR tools and solutions raising visibility
Drugs trafficking – French Customs response
Representatives of French Customs presented information on how they respond to global challenge for EU: drugs trafficking with maritime containers and ships. Indeed, Europe is the main target for cocaine smuggling.
French Customs is fully committed to the fight against organized crime. For that purpose French Customs has developed partnerships with public actors and private partners in France, but also an efficient international network.
EU Customs Alliance for Borders
One of the key point of the agenda was the establishment of a European Union Customs Alliance for Borders Expert Team (EU CAB), which aims to foster multitrack cooperation among Customs Administrations and border crossing points, taking different type of borders into account: air, land and maritime.
Mr Andras Bartha, Head of CELBET, presented proposal of continuation the project and how experience and work organization of CELBET contributes to the creation of Customs Alliance for Borders. Furthermore, PR expert presented ready designed visual elements for the Alliance and tools that will ensure visibility of the new expert team.
The proposal has been assessed as an impressive and necessary base of new structure implementation:
“Our common customs activity is to put one framework, to contribute together EU Roadmap, to make visible and tangible contribution to this Roadmap. We need to maximize visibility of the customs action”– summed up Mr Matthias Petschke.
SC members delved into discussions about Customs Alliance for Borders but with simultaneous highlighting the role and achievements of CELBET and the possibility of building an Alliance applying the expert team’s experience. This would enhance maximum efficiency and security at ports, land borders, airports and postal offices.
“You, as a CELBET have a big achievement: you created a culture. I wish to keep this culture but it is a difficult and ambitious task” – summed up Mr Jiří Trousil, Deputy Director General of the Czech Customs Directorate.
Medals of Merit
During the meeting, Head of National Revenue Administration, Mr Bartosz Zbaraszczuk awarded medals of merit, in recognition of the commitment of:
Brigadier General Kristof Bakai, Deputy Commissioner for Customs and International Affairs of the Hungarian Tax and Customs Administration
Colonel Jiří Trousil, Deputy Director General of the Czech Customs Directorate.
This was a special opportunity for the Head of National Revenue Administration of Poland to thank and honour awarded for their personal commitment and initiative in the area of cooperation between Polish, Czech and Hungarian authorities.